I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 8 years old. Inhalers have been a part of my life for 43 years. They are essential and when things go wrong, life saving.
U2 have been in my life nearly as long (since 1984, some 37 years). They were a huge part of my teenage life, as they were for many lads I knew who were second generation Irish in the UK. They were politicised, passionate, amazing….I didn’t need them like my inhaler but they were, for a time, as important to me - adolescents have a fucked up sense of priority…
Fast forward to 2019, Mrs JO’B and I are at The Great Escape in Brighton. We are waiting outside a room above the Prince Albert pub for the Irish band showcase, queuing on the stair. We are there to see The Murder Capital, and waiting on the stairwell through the set by an up and coming band called Inhaler. We can hear them - they are good. Really good. It seems trite to say they sound like U2. Lazy journalism. But they do.
We finally were let inside the room, as they left the stage and we waited for The Murder Capital. The latter were amazing - like a modern version of Whipping Boy, an early 90s indie revelation.
At the bar, a man tells me how amazing Inhaler were and that the singer was Bono’s son. Fuck. We have fucked up. Or have we - I love U2, but they are frustrating, entitled, preachy. Their tax arrangements are not great and their defence ridiculous. Did I really want to see the entitled son of an entitled legend? Would he be Rufus Wainwright or Kelly Osbourne?
Fast forward again to 2021 - Inhaler have been releasing increasingly great songs. They are stunning. Finally in July, the debut album arrives and hurtles to No 1 in the UK charts.
They are ridiculously good (they are Rufus, not Kelly). Are they just good because of one member’s dad? No. Yes, they have had a leg up and interest by association - to deny this would be churlish.
But this is a fabulous album. Opener It Won’t Always Be Like This bursts out of the speakers, guitars and synths blaring away - the song is about the break up of a relationship and getting over it (heartbroken teenagers facing up to love’s first bruises). It’s huge, assured and as good as anything on U2’s Boy.
And there I am being lazy, comparing them to the old fella’s group. Elijah’s voice is very Bono, but the music is punchier, optimistic and galvanised - they are on a mission. But it’s not a mission from God - it’s a mission from Pop! Objective? Be as catchy as fuck. And they have embraced that mission and delivered.
My Honest Face is pounding drums, self depreciation and romps along at speed. Meanwhile, Slide Out The Window is paced, wry and knowing. Cheer Up Baby is poptastic, evocative and funky.
My King Will Be Kind wails “And they love and they love, but I still don't fit in”. Its lyrics are unusually direct, backed by their most sophisticated music so far. More of this please.
Totally is louche disco and intoxicating and chilled (does the piano sound a bit like Britney’s Baby, Hit Me One More Time?) while Strange Time To Be Alive is similarly low key, simple and softer.
Closer In My Sleep rocks out to end matters, knocking out a New Order style bass to underpin their closing statement - a sign of things to come?
14 year old JO’B would have loved this and felt a huge affinity with its wide eyed honesty, its energy and its Irish connection. 51 year old JO’B feels the same. Yay!